Mammogram and Breast Imaging Frequently Asked Questions

Mammograms save lives by x-ray imaging the breast and revealing healthy or cancerous breast tissue.


What is the difference between a mammogram, breast imaging, or breast cancer testing/screening?

The terms are often used to describe the process of a patient receiving an x-ray of the breast to rule out breast cancer. The terms are used interchangeably.

What is a mammogram?

Mammography is the term to describe a radiograph (also known as an x-ray) taken of the breast tissue. The goal of a mammogram is to determine whether a patient has healthy breast tissue or if breast cancer has been detected.

A radiologist is a physician who specializes in reading x-rays. A radiologist will examine the x-rays to determine if the breast is healthy or if there is further need for additional examination to treat or rule out a breast cancer diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

If you are concerned you may have symptoms of breast cancer, please schedule an appointment by calling 303-436-4949 and ask for an appointment for a mammogram to be screened for breast cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer can include but are not limited to lumps in the breast and around the armpit, pain the breast, changes in breast size, nipple discharge including blood and excluding breast milk, nipple pain, irritation of breast skin, and thickening or swelling of the breast.

How long does a mammogram take?

A mammogram procedure takes around 15 minutes from checking in at one of Denver Health’s imaging centers to completing the procedure. The actual imaging of the breast takes just 20-30 seconds for an image to be rendered.

Do I need to remove my clothes for a mammogram?

The x-ray technician will have the patient remove any clothing from the waist up that covers the breast tissue including a bra and shirt. The x-ray technician will provide the patient with a gown to wear to ensure privacy as the x-ray procedure takes place.

Do mammograms hurt?

Mammograms do not hurt; however, some individuals describe a mammogram as an uncomfortable pressure applied to the breasts when the x-ray equipment comes in contact with the chest for about 20-30 seconds. The uncomfortable sensation is minimal and temporary. Relief is almost always immediately felt after the procedure is completed.

Does Denver Health offer advanced mammography technology like 3D mammograms?

3D mammography is a relatively new way of imaging the breast. The breast is x-rayed at different angels and each image is collected and assembled, building one 3D image that the radiologist assesses. 3D mammograms are offered at Denver Health’s breast imaging centers and focus on breast cancer screenings for patients with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Because of advanced technology in creating a 3D image of the breast, radiologists can view a complete picture of the breast and any breast abnormalities. The 3D mammography technology is beneficial as it frequently reduces the need for follow-up imaging and improves visualizations of atypical growths and breast cancer.

Do individuals who identify as nonbinary, gender nonconforming, transgender man, or transgender woman need to be screened for breast cancer?

Denver Health prides itself on being an inclusive ally, supporting the LGBTQ+ community across all service lines. While there is no evidence suggesting an increase of breast cancer risk in transgender women, the diagnostic imaging guidelines for gender-diverse and transgender patients are similar to those for cisgender patients. In the mammography space, it is recommended for gender-diverse or transgender women using feminizing hormone therapy, developing breast tissue to schedule a breast cancer screening/mammogram. Hormonally developed breast tissue in transgender women is like breast tissue in cisgender women and breast findings do not vary based on a patient’s gender identifying factors.

It is recommended mammography begin at age 50 in patients who have undergone a minimum of 5 years of hormone therapy.

Transgender men who have not received a mastectomy should also regularly schedule mammograms following general guidelines of receiving a screening over 40 years old and then every two years between ages 50-74.